Managing Marketing Complexity: Delivering on the Brand Promise
One of the more interesting developments in the business world is the significant increase in marketing spend - including advertising, CRM technology and new channel development - at a time when most companies struggle to connect with customers in a way that maximizes loyalty and repeat spend. In fact, it is hard to remember a time when there was less loyalty to financial institutions, phone companies and airlines. Clearly, some of the lack of “commitment” by customers can be blamed on more information available on the web, lower barriers to switching (i.e. cell number portability), and aggressive promotional tactics (zero interest balance transfer on credit cards).
However, there appears to be more to the issue. Specifically, a number of industry statistics indicate that companies are simply failing to meet the needs and expectations of their customers. A recent University of Michigan Customer Satisfaction Study found consumers increasingly dissatisfied with financial services companies, retailers and even e-commerce providers. And in the much maligned automobile industry, most companies have repeat rates of less than 50%, with some as low as 30%.
What does that have to do with marketing? One might ask. Marketers don’t make the cars, build the networks or handle service calls. Our jobs as marketers are to get the customers in the door; it’s the responsibility of operations and customer service to make sure everyone is happy. There’s not much marketing can do to keep someone from walking out the door, is there?
Well, actually there is. If a customer is unhappy, there is clearly a mismatch between the brand promise to that customer and the actual customer experience. And while the rest of the company plays a big role in delivering that experience, marketing has the ability and responsibility to have a big impact on customer satisfaction.
First, marketing develops the brand promise and attracts customers with that promise. Linking that promise to customers who most value it, by accurate segmentation and targeting, is a key responsibility of the marketing function. This segmentation is critical to maximizing marketing ROI as well as reducing churn.
Second, good companies provide ranges of service and support based on what is important to the customer. Additionally, this service/support level must be provided with an eye to the level of profitability (lifetime value) of the customer. The ability to provide these configurations is dependent on an integrated view of the customer which is best defined by the marketing organization.
Finally, high performing companies are required to be more nimble than ever before. For all the reasons listed above, product development cycles, campaigns and promotions must happen faster and more frequently than at any time in history. Setting the pace in the marketplace based on customer and competitive dynamics falls squarely on the shoulders of marketing. In fact, it is hard to imagine that market cadence being set anywhere else in the organization.
Maintaining customer loyalty is one of today’s biggest challenges for any company. Meeting that challenge requires marketing to play a key role in delivering the branded customer experience.